Egg Freezing Explained by RMACT's IVF Lab Manager
From Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT)'s IVF Laboratory Manager, Katherine Scott, an explanation of egg (oocytes) freezing procedures, as promised. She’s busy answering the following questions and more:
What is egg freezing? What is vitrification? Does it matter where you freeze your eggs? What are the chances of pregnancy after thawing the oocytes? What do we know and what do we still not know about freezing?
This is not about feelings or thoughts or ideas, this is about science and facts and explanations that are based on research and data. This is about differences and similarities. This is about truly understanding from someone who can explain it from top to bottom. ~Lisa Rosenthal
What is egg freezing?
This is a term that is often used and sometimes misused to mean cryopreservation of a woman’s oocytes for fertility preservation.
What is oocyte vitrification?
Vitrification and warming of human oocytes (women’s eggs) is a high complexity process. Each step must be followed precisely using exact amounts of cryoprotectants in the correct order in order to achieve the best possible outcome. One needs to remember that every woman is born with a finite number of oocytes; no additional oocytes will ever be created. In humans the oocytes are the largest human cell measuring around 0.1mm, however bigger is not always better. Fertility preservation for women has been historically less efficient due to the fragile nature of oocytes. Oocytes have a large surface area, high water content, and delicate chromosomal arrangement. Slow cooling oocytes meant they were actually frozen and stored in a large volume of cryoprotectant solution. It was the freezing itself that was a major concern, because when a solution freezes it forms ice crystals which can cause the cells to lyse (break).
Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) uses a process that is quite different and is called vitrification. Vitrification is different from slow cooling because the oocytes are never actually frozen; instead, they are taken to a glass like state using a specialized type of media and container, removing any possibility of ice crystals forming and cells breaking. Survival rates are greatly improved using vitrification as opposed to slow cooling in preserving oocytes.
RMACT only uses the vitrification process to cryopreserve our patients’ oocytes. When the patient is ready to move forward with starting their family, the lab will warm their oocytes on the day of the patients choosing and fertilize them using the ICSI process. The blastocyst embryos are then transferred on Day 5 of a fertility treatment cycle with any supernumerary embryos being vitrified for future cycles.
RMACT’s IVF Laboratory Manager, Katherine Scott, was one of the authors of the 2012 study demonstrating that implantation rates from vitrified oocytes are equivalent to fresh oocytes and that there is no increased risk of aneuploidy (chromosomal abnormalities) once embryos reach the blastocyst stage. See more: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22608316
Meet IVF Lab Manager Katherine Scott, BA, M.Sc.
One of the best things about hanging around at the Norwalk office of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) is who you bump into to chat with informally. A reminder: I do work there so I’m not simply “hanging around” because that just didn’t sound right, did it? My point is that the unplanned meetings that take place there, for me, are often as important as the formal meetings.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting Katherine Scott for the first time. Scott is our newly appointed IVF Lab Manager. I’d heard a lot about her but had not met her yet.
She described herself as not warm and fuzzy. Her words. I actually found her quite engaging and friendly. And very, very smart. I hope she wasn’t quite smart enough to realize that I didn’t understand some of what she was saying when she started talking about the technical and scientific aspects of the lab. I’m not a clinician, so I stick firmly to my belief that it is the reason I didn’t understand all of what she was saying.
So I’m actually way overdue to introduce Katherine Scott, BA, M.Sc. to you. Funny how that works though, getting to talk to her in person, there’s now more that I can share.
First thing you get from Katherine Scott is her passion. She lives and breathes the lab. Her life commitment is her work and her interest and desire shine through her words and her eyes. She talks about the advances in the labs and her excitement is palpable. I feel very lucky that she has landed here with us.
Second thing that you get from Scott is her compassion. Interesting, given that she describes herself as not warm and fuzzy. Without revealing personal information about her, let me just say that she spends free time giving back to the community in quiet, unsung ways. It’s just part of who she is and reflects what she believes in. One of her biggest concerns that she expressed yesterday, several times, is that she isn’t necessarily compassionate enough with patients. We talked quite a bit about personality and how what appeals to one person may be directly opposed to another person. We talked about maintaining personal integrity rather than people pleasing, as it is impossible to please every person that we run across in our lives. After speaking to her, I’m not at all worried about her speaking to patients. Her professionalism and care in her work are reflected very beautifully in her words. Patients will easily understand how well she does her job; caring about their care and their embryos.
We also talked about the skill sets needed. Do we need an embryologist to be warm and fuzzy? Is that a necessary skill set for a lab manager? Or is the skill set that we need and want for a lab director to have to manage and handle the scientific and clinical aspects of handling sperm, eggs and embryos?
I vote for the latter. We need the right person for the right job. There’s no doubt in my mind that Katherine Scott is a wonderful choice for a lab manager. She is smart, (very smart), she is passionate about her field of medicine/science, she is dedicated, she is devoted and she is extremely qualified.
And aren’t all of those the things we all want in a lab manager?
Keep reading, Scott will be submitting blogs regularly starting sometime in April.
Katherine Scott, it was a pleasure to meet and speak with you.
Happy weekend everyone.
IVF (in vitro fertilization) Laboratory Manager K. Scott, BA, M.Sc.
As Manager of RMACT’s Embryology Lab, Katherine is responsible for all clinical laboratory functions in RMACT’s laboratories, including embryology/IVF, andrology and endocrinology. She works with RMACT’s team of Board Certified reproductive endocrinologists to perform assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and to lead clinical research.
Katherine has experience in cryopreservation and vitrification of oocytes and embryos, as well as embryo manipulation, culture, transfer and biopsy. She also has extensive experience with male infertility, including semen analysis, cryopreservation and preparation for IUI, ICSI and IVF. She is passionate about her clinical responsibilities and how her work in the lab affects the lives of patients and parents to be.
Katherine’s affinity for math and statistics drew her to study psychology at University of Alabama. As she concluded her degree, she was recruited to provide statistical support for Nathan Treff, Ph.D., at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey (RMANJ). Katherine’s enthusiasm, diligence, and technical acumen were quickly recognized as she moved into the Embryology laboratory and facilitated first with on-site training, then with institutional support in the pursuit of her Masters of Biochemical Sciences with an emphasis on Clinical Embryology and Andrology from Eastern Virginia Medical School. During her time in the laboratory, Katherine has enjoyed the opportunity to refine her skills, participating in more than 10,000 IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycles. Armed with this experience, Katherine began to travel, teaching vitrification to other laboratory professionals across the country. Katherine joined the RMACT team in 2013.
Katherine is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and American Board of Bioanalysts (ABB).
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Our laboratory director, at RMACT
, Dawn Kelk, PhD
, sometimes tosses and turns at night. How come? Because as tight as her protocols are in the lab, she is always concerned about clerical error, patient error or any other type of error.
I have to tell you, that is my kind of lab director. Relaxed is a really good state of being in a lot of places. The person handling my embryos doesn't need to be that relaxed. She needs to be really, really diligent. And even more than that, she needs to have procedures and protocols in place to catch anyone when for a moment they are not being diligent. That's right, the yoga teacher's into procedures and protocols. Me, I should be relaxed when I teach you, guide you through gentle poses and guided meditation. Dawn, we want diligent. Tomorrow, you will get to hear first hand from her what the procedures are that are followed, every single time.
Some of us feel like the lab is a big, black hole where our sperm and eggs disappear, someone waves a magic wand and they reappear as embryos. I think while a lot of us understand how the actual procedures work; some of it is an enigma. Lab culture, co-culture, how is an embryo graded, what does the grading mean, how are the embryo's stored. Dr. Kelk is going to start a conversation with you, tomorrow, with the basics of lag procedure. I love it because it's a great way for you to relax, to know that she is on top of how her lab is run, how things are checked, rechecked, triple checked, quadruple checked, and even then sometimes tosses and turns at night, worrying about you.
Great time to ask questions as well, as this is a conversation. We want you to feel comfortable, and yes, relaxed about how your embryos are being handled. So ask away!